Washington Nationals: Tim Collins a possibility for relief corps

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 28: Tim Collins
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 28: Tim Collins /
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Tim Collins appears to be on the outside looking in as far as the Washington Nationals’ bullpen is concerned, but he could return to the bigs this year. Here’s more on the lefty.

For the first time in what feels like forever, the Washington Nationals have a strong bullpen to begin a season. For the last few years, horrific bullpens have been as much a part of the franchise as Bryce Harper.

Mike Rizzo always fixes the bullpen at the midseason trade deadline, but watching the Nats blow late leads throughout the first half of every season is extremely frustrating.

Now, the Nats have a solid bullpen to begin the season, highlighted by closer Sean Doolittle. While Doolittle may be the most recognizable lefty in the Nats’ ‘pen, he is far from being the only one.

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Sammy Solis, Enny Romero, Matt Grace, Bryan Harper, and Tim Collins serve as left-handed relief options to complement Doolittle. Solis, Romero, and Grace each pitched for the Nats last year, while Harper and Collins spent the year recovering from Tommy John Surgeries.

Harper and Collins have both pitched well this spring, but Collins has a much better shot at making the Opening Day roster. Harper is a familiar name, mostly because of his younger brother, but Collins is relatively unknown to Nats fans.

Collins, a 28-year-old reliever, debuted as a 21-year-old with the Royals in 2011. He was a dominant reliever in Kansas City, pitching to a 3.54 ERA in 228 appearances from 2011-2014. He even played a key role throughout their 2014 World Series run.

Then, Collins’ career was derailed by an injury. He tore his UCL during spring training in 2015, which required Tommy John Surgery. He spent all of 2015 rehabbing, and returned in time for spring training the next year, but his arm still was not right.

During spring training in 2016, Collins discovered that the surgery had not worked out as they hoped. Now, he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery yet again. He spent all of 2016 rehabbing as well, before signing a minor league deal with the Nats prior to the 2017 season.

Collins rehabbed within the Nats’ organization throughout 2017, even making it back to pitching in minor league games.

Unfortunately, his performance was abysmal. This was frustrating, but understandable for a pitcher coming back after not pitching in three years and undergoing two major elbow surgeries.

However, Collins has looked like his old self in spring training this year. In eight games, the lefty has pitched to a respectable 3.68 ERA. While this may not be enough to earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster, he has made quite the case to see time in the bigs at some point.

Collins also has a lot of people in his corner. Returning to the majors appeared improbable, but he has almost made it all the way back with countless hours of hard work. His path to the majors, even before the injury, was an unlikely one.

Standing at 5’7, Collins is just one inch taller than Jose Altuve. Like Altuve, Collins succeeds despite his height (or lack thereof). He possesses a wide-ranging repertoire, featuring a fastball in the upper-nineties and a Bugs Bunny curveball in the low-seventies.

If Collins does not find his way into the Nats’ crowded bullpen by Opening Day, he will likely make his Nationals debut later in the year. He has worked too hard and come too far to not return to the majors.

Next: Howie Kendrick likely to start Opening Day

Collins may not be the intimidating force that Doolittle is, but he is a guy we can all root for.